The Orioles are refusing to go away quietly.
With an 11-2 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday, the Orioles remarkably moved to just a half-game behind the Yankees for the final wild card spot in the American League with 19 games to play.
The Orioles, winners of four straight, have climbed back into the playoff picture with the the latest performance an impressive display of hitting and pitching.
After a hot start to the season, the Orioles lost six in a row and 11 of 13 to fall to 14-19 a little more than a week ago. Now, after a few promotions of talented youngsters, they’re right back in the thick of things at 20-21.
“It’s exciting to see those guys pitch to see guys make their debuts and have that joy of the game,” starter John Means said. “Honestly, it helps me kind of getting that joy back. I haven’t been having very much fun pitching these last few outings. To see those guys go out there, they’re happy to be here, they’re joyful, they’re excited to get out on the field, it honestly helps me seeing that.”
In the last few weeks, the Orioles notably called up pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer as well as outfielder Ryan Mountcastle. All three have delivered.
Akin hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts (9 2/3 total innings). Kremer’s first MLB outing Sunday was a one-hit start against the Yankees. Mountcastle has four home runs in 16 games.
And for as streaky as the Orioles have been this year, Tuesday was certainly one of the high points.
They scored nine runs in the first five innings and added two more for good measure in the eighth behind multi-hit games from six starters -- five of which came from the fifth through ninth hitters.
Baltimore slugged four home runs and eight extra-base hits as the team totaled 14 hits, their fifth-most of 2020, in a dominating win.
“We’re definitely seeing the ball well,” Means said. “To go out and have that kind of run cushion, you’re not going to get that very many outings. With these guys and the way they’re swinging it, we’re putting up some runs.”
The win was the Orioles’ second biggest win of the season, only trailing an 11-0 victory over the Nationals in early August.
But not only was the offense sharp, the pitching staff delivered too.
Means threw six innings and allowed just three hits and one earned run with a lone walk and five strikeouts on 97 pitches. It was a sharp turn from his last outing less than a week ago against the same team, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“That was John Means of a lot of starts from last year,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “How he really pitched aggressive with his fastball, threw both sides of the plate, had some fade action to his changeup, really kept guys off-balance with some nice breaking balls. Loved the composure on the mound, never looked discouraged, didn’t show frustration tonight and really showed a lot of pose tonight.”
Suddenly, the Orioles have strung together a winning combination of baseball.
Jose Iglesias is batting .396 after another two-hit performance, Mountcastle boosted his average and OPS to .339 and 1.004 after a 2-for-5 outing, and even Cedric Mullins got into the act with a three-hit night.
The pitching staff has held together too as they’ve allowed just 13 runs in the last five games.
With a series finale against the Mets on Wednesday and a four-game set against the Yankees to follow, they’re certainly hanging around longer than anyone expected this season.
And if they’re able to put together a few more performances like Tuesday, they’ll do a bit more than just hang around. “I think it could go longer, we’re seeing the ball well, I think we’re pitching well,” Means said. “We’ve got a good team right now and the chemistry is really kicking.”